Horse Talk: Zarkandar’s set for glory at Cheltenham

Trainers of Cheltenham hopefuls will be hesitating whenever they open the stable door, for fear of discovering an injury that could rule their intended runner out of the festival.

Such was the case this week for Nigel Twiston-Davies, who was forced to withdraw his 2010 Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander from this year’s Cup.

“He’s got a lung infection so he won’t be going to Cheltenham – that’s that,” Twiston-Davies said. “It’s an absolute sickener but they are very delicate creatures.”

Paul Nicholls will be hoping for better luck for Zarkandar, who is fancied to land the Champion Hurdle on the first day of the Cheltenham festival that takes place from Tuesday to Friday.

“Zarkandar has been totally different to how he was a year ago,” Nicholls said. “He won the Betfair Hurdle, then started coughing and was nowhere near himself when he ran in the Champion Hurdle last year and finished fifth after running a bit flat.

“Then he fell at Aintree. Otherwise he has won every race he has run in. He was three from three as a juvenile and has won all three this season. He is in good form and we are very happy with him.”

Other fancies on Tuesday are My Tent Or Yours and Simonsig, while on Wednesday Sprinter Sacre is taken to justify cramped odds in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and The New One is fancied to lift the spirits of Twiston-Davies by winning the Novices’ Hurdle.

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Simon Jackson is a freelance racing journalist based in north west London. He can be reached at for press and PR enquiries, or racing/betting related news stories and features.